Two of the three legs of a new Iraqi government are in place. Last week, the Iraqi parliament elected Kurdish politician Fuad Masum to be the country’s president.
On July 15, the parliament elected a moderate Sunni politician, Salim al-Jabouri to be speaker. Now, over the fifteen days following the president’s election, Mr. Masum will oversee the selection of a new prime minister.
Current Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been serving in a caretaker capacity since parliamentary elections in April.
During a recent visit to Iraq, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said that Iraq is facing an existential threat and urged Iraqis to expedite the formation of an inclusive government, to counter the violence that is engulfing Iraq. The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, known as ISIL, the al-Qaida splinter group that now controls large portions of territory in Iraq, is violently imposing rule based on the most extreme interpretation of Islamic law, and, along with associated armed groups, is targeting members of religious and ethnic minorities.
In ISIL-controlled Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, for example, thousands of Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities have been compelled to leave the city under threat of death. Religious holy sites sacred to Christians, Muslims and Jews alike have been destroyed.
The United States agrees that the only effective way for Iraq to maintain its territorial integrity and to effectively confront the urgent security and humanitarian challenges it faces with ISIL is with an inclusive, cohesive government that is devoted to representing all Iraqis. The next critical step is naming a Prime Minister; the Shia parties have 15 days, according to the constitutional timeline, from the naming of the President, to decide on a candidate. Keeping this process on track is essential.
In a statement congratulating Fuad Masum on his election as Iraqi president, State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf noted that “by taking this crucial step, the Council of Representatives has demonstrated its commitment to uniting the country according to the constitution and advancing the legitimate rights and aspirations of all Iraq’s communities. Iraq’s leaders,” she said, “now must take the next step in their democratic process by choosing a prime minister and forming a government.”